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vi THE ORDEAL 115
women divine the welfare or death of absent
men by means of needles threaded with cotton
wool and set afloat. As the wool gets wetted
the needles sink one after another, and the man
whose needle sinks first would be the dead one.1
The Holy Well at Little Conan, Cornwall,
shows plainly how this mode of divination
may arise out of the throwing of objects into
the holy well, and the fee to the priest is an
interesting feature. On Palm Sunday a cross
of palm is thrown into the well after a present
has been made to the priest. If it swam,
the thrower was to outlive the year; if it sank,
he would die.2 The principle of this ordeal
is seen in its simplest form in the Malay
diving ordeal. The oaths are written out, and
sealed in bamboo tubes. Two boys act as
proxies and dive into the water holding the
bamboos. The boy who has the false oath is
half drowned, and is obliged to come up to
not explicit; perhaps it was France. His reference is to Masse, L'Imposture et tromperie des diables, 32.
1 Hartland, op. cit. ii. p. 21. 2 Hunt, op. cit. p. 56.
3 Skeat, Malay Magic, pp. 542-544.